ELMA — Some of the best 360 sprint car drivers in the nation, along with the Northwest’s best, have landed at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma. Texan Travis Rilat led them all on Friday night.
On Friday, the ASCS Nationals kicked off with a 27-car field, and the Northwest Wingless Tour also ran a season race in support. Rilat took the lead early and survived several yellow caution flags to pick up the Friday night A-main championship.
Tonight, the ASCS drivers — national and Northwest-based — will navigate through the three-eighths of a mile clay oval in six visits to the Elma facility for the weekend championship. The green flag drops at 6:30 p.m., with gates opening at 4:30 p.m.
Friday’s races were the preliminary setup to tonight’s program, which is worth more points to determine the overall champion.
Rilat, of Forney, Texas, owns one ASCS National win at GHR in his career, winning the overall weekend title in 2009. In this 30-lap A-main, he just needed one pass for the lead early.
Reigning ASCS National Champion Jason Johnson held the very early lead from the pole position. However, Rilat made his move on the inside line on lap 2 and the lead stuck to his tires like the clay on the oval.
On laps 6, 13 and 17, caution flags bunched up the field. Rilat expertly kept the lead, only seeing trouble when he encountered lapped traffic. After the final caution, Rilat wasn’t challenged for the lead and the win.
Johnson, Johnny Herrera, Dustin Morgan, of Tulsa, Okla., and Roger Crockett made up the top-five spots.
Crockett, a native of Cottage Grove, Ore., is the only Northwest ASCS driver to beat the national drivers in the six years of head-to-head competition. Crockett, one of the most prolific Northwest champions in the 360 sprint car ranks over the last 10 years, won in 2009.
Johnson, of Eunice, La., has two GHR ASCS Nationals wins to his credit (twice in 2010). He is currently second in the ASCS overall standings entering Friday’s races. Herrera, of Albuquerque, N.M., is the current standings leader.
Johnson was the runaway winner in the first ASCS heat race, taking the lead from Elma’s Jason Reed on the first lap. Snohomish’s Seth Bergman won the second heat, while Enumclaw’s Henry VanDam regained the lead on lap 5 from Bartlett, Tenn’s Jeff Swindell to win a very competitive third heat race.
Herrera held off Elk Grove, Calif.’s Cole Wood in the first half of the fourth heat to win running away.
In the B-main, the top-four finishers moved up to the A-main. Brad Loyet, of Sunset Hills, Mo., took the lead in lap 4 of the 12-lap race and cruised to the win. Steven Tyner, of Elverta, Calif., GHR regular Reece Goetz, of Snohomish, and Colton Heath, of Marysville, all grabbed transfer spots.
NW Wingless Tour
Taking a high line, Kyle Miller moved from the back row to the front of the pack on lap 11 and overcame a key caution flag one lap later to win the 30-lap Northwest Wingless Sprint Tour A-main race.
Garret Johnson took the lead from pole sitter John Butler in lap 3, but lost the lead on lap 5 from Pat Canfield, who started one sput ahead of Miller.
After a lap-8 caution flag, Canfield went out with Miller and Evan Margeson behind him.
On lap 11, Miller made his move. The second and final caution flag came one lap later, then Miller made it elementary with plenty of room to spare for the remaining 19 laps. Margeson, Canfield, Mike Romig and Johnson rounded out the top-five spots.
Sterling Kane traded the lead with Jeff Bell in the first two laps, then held on for the remaining race to win the first heat race of the night. Miller and Canfield moved from the back of the pack to trade the lead midway through the 10-lap second heat race. In the end, Miller secured the win, holding off Canfield.
Daily World correspondent Justin Damasiewicz contributed to this report.